Live Music Spaces in Virginia

January 2023

We used Google to identify spaces in which live music (and live dj-ing) appears in Virginia, ultimately identifying 375 spaces across the state. We restricted our census to spaces and events accessible to the general public. However, we quickly realized that creating an exhaustive and accurate census of live music spaces is likely impossible. This is because live music is performed in many kinds of spaces: nightly events in formal music venues, weekly events in church services, monthly open jam sessions in public parks, ad hoc performances in restaurants and bars, and seasonal concerts at schools, for instance. By the time a restaurant’s music series is recognized by Google, the restaurant may have either gone out of business or suspended the series. Most public music making appears in informal and ad hoc contexts rather than in formal venues, which publish easily scrapable calendars. Such a complex mix of contexts for live music is likely to be found in most communities. However, Virginia’s complex alcohol laws may make informal and ad hoc venues more common across the state as compared to other areas of the country. 

375 Live Music Spaces from 2023 Google Census (points), with US Census 2020 Diversity Index (shading). Click HERE for full interactive map with multiple demographic features.

Music spaces visible to Google are unevenly distributed across the state. As we would expect, they tend to cluster tightly in densely populated urban areas. Surely there is more public music making in the apparent “music deserts” of Virginia’s Southside region but, being invisible to Google, such areas will appear as music deserts in the digital archive. 

The US Census, CDC, and ESRI publish detailed demographic data for each of Virginia’s 133 counties. Below we identify several demographic measures that positively correlate with the number of live music spaces (visible to Google) for each county in the state. 

Extreme poverty (.34), the number of single parent homes (.32), the number of homes with no internet (.35), the county’s diversity index (.35), the county’s population density (.53), the percent of Asian population (.29), and the percent of Hispanic population (.33) are all positively and statistically significantly associated with the number of spaces for live music in a county. The percent of White population is mildly negatively associated (-.25) with more venues in a county. 

This correlation matrix charts interactions across several variables.

Correlation values above 20% (.2) are typically considered relevant in the arts and humanities because the data being compared originates from hypercomplex real world conditions with many interacting variables, not from the controlled environment of the lab, where we typically want to see correlation values above 70%.

Some of these measures are to be expected; a positive correlation between a county’s population density and the number of live music spaces is unsurprising. But what explains the positive correlation between extreme poverty, single parent homes, homes without internet, and the number of live music spaces? Correlation is not causation, but it seems that more live music is associated with communities that are more “mixed up,” including a variety of residents from a range of socio-economic and ethnic backgrounds. 

Note: Measures with a red asterisk are statistically significant; more stars = higher p value threshold: ***: 0 – 0.001 **: 0.001 – 0.01 *: 0.01 – 0.05. 

For more on interpreting correlation matrix charts, See:

Data Source: 

CDC/ATSDR Social Vulnerability Index 2020 DatabaseVirginia. Accessed on January 10, 2023.

US Census, 2020. Accessed on January 10, 2023.